Today's post is about language. It is written in a language (English), and it (hopefully) will do the job of language: communicate. My husband said to me the other day, (when I told him to stop "kvetching"), that I loved words so much, it didn't even matter what language they were in. He then asked for the meaning of "kvetch" to see if he should be insulted or not. Kvetch is a Yiddish word that means to complain, so of course I Americanized it by adding -ing. He was not insulted as indeed, he was complaining.
I thought on that for a moment and realized how true it was. I LOVE words. I love how they sound, I love how they look. I have a rather eclectic background when it comes to language, so I'll share a little bit about it. Then maybe you will all know why I'm fascinated, but only speak ONE language (I think it's an American failing).
My dad is descended from the Pilgrims. Really. That makes him English. My mother was fully German, but since she died when I was two, I have no real recollections of her family. I do know her parents spoke German.
My first wicked step-mother was Polish and she and all her family spoke - um, Polish. I remember them speaking and that I didn't understand anything for awhile. I was very young then, three or four, but I distinctly remember going to visit her grandmother in a nursing home one day. When we got back to the house, one of the ladies there (no idea who she was), asked what we talked about and I told her everything. Dad just looked at me funny because the entire visit was in Polish. He looked at my step-mother and she nodded that yes, I had gotten it right.
In high school, I got interested in classical music and of course, most of the songs are in German, French, Italian, and Latin. I liked Latin a lot. I used to spend inordinate amounts of time grounded in my room by my second wicked step-mother. So, I translated a bunch of the Latin texts. They lined up with the Mass (as almost all of the songs were sacred Latin as opposed to secular). By the time I was 16, I could say the entire Mass in Latin. This was a very useful thing to learn.
It made my Presbyterian father a bit verklemmt that I continued in my first step-mother's religion of Roman Catholicism, but he liked it better than if I had followed the second step-mother's Jack Mormonism. Are you still following?
At that time in my life, the choice was all about the words. Prayer just sounded cooler in Latin. It still does to me. Now my son is learning Latin too, and my poor husband does not yet realize that there is a gene for this kind of odd language fascination. My writer friends get it.
The weird thing is, I never learned to speak any language other than English. I'm around Spanish a lot, as I live in California. I understand just enough to get me into trouble. I can ask questions in Spanish, but my eyes glaze over when the answer comes. I have not put all the components together. I think doing that requires immersing yourself in the language for awhile.
Last year, we had a wonderful foreign exchange student stay with us for ten months. His English was fabulous. He spoke a total of nine languages. OMGosh! Where he lived, and the family and business he came from, required him to be able to communicate with many different cultures.
Sometimes it is not just the desire, but the opportunity that makes a difference as to whether or not we can pick up this skill or that one. If I had to go live somewhere and no one spoke English, I would be MOTIVATED to learn whatever language surrounded me. That is where I think the American culture fails it's people. We are not surrounded by anyone, except US! In reality, we are, but most of us could live our entire lives without ever needing to speak any other language. I find that sad.
And yet, when in my life, because I love words and language, have I forced myself to learn a language other than my own? A little Latin here (um, dead language Jo, pick another one), a little Spanish there, a bit of Danish, some German, oh yeah, and Gaelic. Gaelic (and maybe Welsh) has to have the hardest spellings. I can say the words, I cannot read them. And that's about it. The ability to say words in all those different languages, but not really communicate.
Here, after writing those words, it hit me. I am not really fascinated by language at all. I am, as my sweet husband said, fascinated by WORDS. To the point where I don't care what they mean. Just how they sound, and look, in ANY language.
I'm free! I now know why I want to hear people speak in different languages. I love the sound of words. Music. Words. It makes sense that I frequently read my writing out loud and change things by how they sound. I wonder how many other writers have this aural component to their creative process? Perhaps they all should?
You would think that with all this musical and language background, that I would write music. You would be wrong. I've tried it. I suck. It is weird that musicality and the ability to write do not converge in the ability to write music. I wish it did.
Someday, when I am very old (and wealthy), I will sit in different cities around the world, at small tables in sidewalk cafes, sipping tea and eating whatever I want, and listening to the language that surrounds me, whatever it is, loving the words.
I'm back at Gotham (ooh, that makes me sound Batman-ly). Gotham Writers' Workshop is an online and real life (in New York City) writing school. I discovered it soon after being bitten by the writing bug and it has shaved years, perhaps centuries, off my learning curve.
The curriculum is taught by writers. Ten weeks. No grades. Perfect-for-me!
We read a lot, we critique each other's work, and the instructor gives us stand up criticism or praise as they deem necessary. I actually have to work hard to get good responses, but they are EARNED, and that counts for much in my book.
I've learned more in that environment than anywhere else. It's made me think that maybe what I want to do when I grow up is be a writer. I'm lucky to be at a place in life where I can pursue this idea. I also feel it is leading me to get an MFA (Master's in Fine Arts - Creative Writing).
Do I think that everyone needs to take this path? Not at all. Do I think I could be a good writer without one? Yes, I think I could be. So, why the degree?
I have this delusion that someone will be helped by my disclosure and decision making, so humor me.
First, my father, a great influence on me and a very smart person, always said that he didn't care if I got degrees, he just wanted me to be well-educated. I took that to heart and have been in school for most of my adult life. I'm just now finishing my Bachelor's degree, but I have some 210 quarter units under my belt (most degrees are equal to 120 or so). There. Well-educated.
In the writing department, I want to write Literary Fiction. The heavy stuff. The stuff of complex constructs, and intelligent discourse on the trials of humanity, you know - life. I think the way to learn this particular type of writing is best done through a master's program at a university. I think I could learn it on my own, given enough time, but I started this whole thing with about half my life (I hope) behind me, a full-time job and a family. School will shave years off the learning curve again.
I think anyone can benefit from more education. It's one of those things you can never have enough of. I haven't yet applied to any MFA programs, and maybe I'll change my mind over the next few years, but for now, Gotham is filling my need for intense learning and growth. Thanks, Gotham.
I swear, the thing I like most about any day is laughing. Specifically those things that cause laughter again and again and again.
Look for it under blogs I read. I laugh out loud every single time I go there. It takes all of about thirty seconds to peruse the new day's offerings and get my laugh for the day. Then I get to show my son when he gets home from school, and I laugh all over again.
Some other things make me giggle occasionally, enough to check them out fairly routinely.
The Fail Blogs
There are about fifty of them, but they are various and sundry pictures, videos, and quotes of funny things. They are not consistently as laugh inducing as Cake Wrecks, but they are worth a few seconds of my time.
A few social media giants exist specifically to give me free and easy access to things that make me smile for sure, laugh sometimes. This too is worth a few seconds of my day.
I follow a few people I don't know simply because I found them somehow and they made me laugh. My Twitter name (or whatever it is called) is (hold on, I have to look it up): JoTaylor776.
If you want to see who I follow, feel free to look, but I don't necessarily want to post them all here.
I think I need to laugh every day. When I was little, I wanted to be a comedian. Yeah, like a standup comedian. I told my Dad this one day and he said, "But honey, you aren't very funny."
That burst my bubble in a big way but luckily I went on to be a successful, well-adjusted grown-up despite Dad's horrific handling of my secret desire.
He's funnier than I am.
I'm usually one of those people who is only funny when I'm not trying to be. Yes, one of THOSE people. So, I revere those who can make me spit coffee out onto my monitor screen in a single sentence.
To the people in this world who see it as a funny place to be, I salute you.
I've always been a people watcher. Seriously, one of those who could sit on a park bench and watch someone or multiple someones for hours. I can even go to a restaurant by myself because I like to be in those situations. Watching, waiting for you to do something I can use in a story. Heh heh.
Since December of 2008, when I started writing, this habit has kicked into overdrive and I've noticed more quirks, or people have just gotten more weird. It's a toss up. First, let me start with the odd things I do so that no one thinks I'm picking on them. This is for character development after all.
I say "actually" all the time. I don't like it, I try to stop, but it is a habit born of my smart aleck childhood. If I get frustrated, I stamp my foot. Yes, actually (oops, there it is again) stamp my foot like a little kid. I cry very easily - like at Kleenex commercials.
Now, put those characteristics into someone who is a boss, and you will either see their employees disrespect them if they allow it to show, or amusement when it sneaks out very rarely in a usually controlled personality. The latter is true for me. I control my quirks well. On a very rare occasion, one will slip out and generally, people laugh. It is hard to write a character that has characteristics that they choose not to show very often. You have to set it up early that they do it, then show them in situations where they've controlled themselves, then let it fly at just the right time for effect. Otherwise, it's just a character with an annoying habit that does nothing for the story.
If you put habits into a story, it is helpful to have the character struggle with that habit, because we all do in real life. (If you happen to have a really cool habit, then you work on doing it more often, so still a struggle).
Comedians are a great resource if you are wanting to come up with something that sets your character apart. They've done all the research. How many of them start with, "Did you ever notice . . ."? Frequently, those are the observations that get laughs. Yes, we noticed, but never quite thought of it that way. You can do that in your writing, and that makes the character memorable. Seinfeld is a perfect example: The Close Talker, The Fast Talker, etc.
For writers, it's not about saying something new; it's about saying something in a new way. I've got the noticing part down, which I would say is at least twenty percent of the battle. Now I have to work on writing about them in such a way that readers see it through new eyes - mine (or rather, my character's). At this point, I've almost done too much noticing and my poor characters are being experimented with in every which way. I have to make them interesting, but not twitchy. So do you think a main character who blinks constantly when she's nervous, clears her throat, has a lisp, stamps her foot, says "Ha!" all the time, drums her fingers, chews her nails, talks with her hands, talks loudly, and invades personal space is too much?
What about a character that pushes up her glasses with her middle finger?
A few well thought out quirks go a long way. I'll have to just pick one or two, and go from there.
I think characters should have more influence from things like generation, family, work as opposed to personal quirks. But the few that you pick are important. Subtle, telling, individual.
I'm not sure what I'm giving Cassidy for my upcoming NaNoWriMo novel that I'm starting in November. I want her to be likable, so it will be subtle, or funny. I'll keep looking and I'm sure I'll notice something in the next few days that will be perfect. I'll let you know after November.
I had to spend four hours of a day off at a class today. Usually it is an annoying but necessary part of life, like sitting in the doctor's office. Today, I actually learned something about people; in particular about their character.
That makes me a happy girl. The class was about increasing levels of customer satisfaction, but the difference in this class (from the usual boring drivel) was twofold. One, we had a nice, personable, enthusiastic, and interested teacher. Two, she brought up the idea of relating to people the way THEY want, not the way YOU want to relate to them. This has great ramifications for writing and creating character.
If we look at all the external and internal forces that affect someone's personal style, we cannot overlook things like inherent personality, age, culture and the like. But we often do, because WE are a certain personality, age, culture. Can you see where this is enlightening? I thought I knew this already, because the pieces-parts are fairly instinctive for me. I don't have trouble communicating with others.
In my writing, my characters tend to be variations of me. While that may be interesting for a short time, unless I can develop characters that are multidimensional, yet act in a congruent manner (i.e. they are believable), my stories will go nowhere. If I define them at some level by all these factors that real people have, a full, dynamic character will rise off the page.
In class we took tests that told us what "type" of communication style we had. It occurred to me that my CHARACTERS could also take those tests, or I could make them fit a certain style because, hey, they do what I say (most of the time). I can use this information to create depth and subtle traits which will round out their action for an engaging, character based story. THAT is what I want to write.
These personality tests have been around for ages, but I never thought of using them in terms of defining a character. I will certainly take back everything I learned and use it to my company's advantage. Seriously. I like being a team player and having a job right now is a good thing. I'm just thrilled that I can use it in my writing also. I might as well, I use just about all the rest of my life.
So, personality tests - check. I'll give it a try. It seems so logical, I don't know why I've never thought of it before.
This will be a mini-post today as I experiment with a blog feed to my Facebook page. Now that I've gotten more brave (braver?) about being social, I feel the need to play with all the toys and see what works for me. I have Facebook, and Twitter, and of course, this blog, but all of that is really just testing the public waters. Not public like the bath house, but public as in anyone can be on the Internet now. It's really kind of weird.
I've "met" many people online, and tomorrow I'm going to Los Angeles (hereafter, LA) to meet a few of them in real life. We will be having lunch. A very real, very normal thing to do. It strikes me funny though, that if the Internet did not exist, I wouldn't be doing this. Most of the girls do not live in California even, and one is here from Australia!
Still, it is necessary to make the effort, the attempt to "connect" whether online or in person. It is the same, but different. And that is about as profound as I can manage today. But, like I said, it is only a mini-post, so a mini attempt at Sophist ideals is all that can be expected. I don't know how this will post to Facebook, so if you are my friend and you are wondering why you are getting this, rest assured I will change how it posts if it seems invasive. I think.
I've wandered away lately from the whole reason I started this blog. Today, I shall wander back. I called it Characteristically Speaking for a number of reasons. One reason is that I write character based stories. I think of the character first, then I tell about who they are and what made them that way (also known as a plot), and in the process love them and hug them and squeeze them and call them George (an obscure Bugs Bunny reference, sorry). This makes me happy.
I also like to learn about what makes a character come alive on the page. The device and voice and technique that creates this alchemy. I tend to talk a lot, so those who know me personally would say that this blog is characteristic of me speaking, and speaking, and speaking.
So far in this post, I've used a particular device three times. Can anyone tell me what it is? Not humor, that isn't exactly a technical device. Okay, give up? It's called polysyndeton. It means using a succession of conjunctions when they could be deleted and commas used, but the effect is different, not the meaning. So all those "ands" were on purpose. Now usually, I would use it once in a story, let's not go overboard. Some people despise it, and some, like me, like the effect in certain stories. I think it mimics real speech, as bad as that can be when it is supposed to be dialog. I use it as one of the ways to show a character thinking and speaking at the same time, or even speaking before thinking.
The thing that started this whole agenda for me today was a recent critique from one of the sites I participate in online. The critique writer said I needed to learn how to use commas correctly and not rely on conjunctions; this in reference to a passage much like the above. Well, yes and no. I am doing it on purpose. I want the effect. It reads differently and has the effect of slowing, of emphasizing, what is being put together in succession with the conjunction instead of the comma.
While I treasure the feedback I get from others that helps my writing, I am discovering that I am starting to nod politely, and then do it my way anyhow. Again, those who know me personally will not be surprised by this behavior. I always do it (ignore advice) when I know a certain amount about the subject matter. It tells me that I have a higher level of confidence in my writing than before. Before: when I would change anything because I assumed I was wrong and they were right. Now, I am not so quick to change. And that, dear readers, is so characteristic of me.
I didn't have a particular subject in mind when I started my writing day this morning, so I tend to get time-sucked by the Internet on such occasions. I do actively look for something though. I try Stumble, or the random page on Wikipedia. Sometimes I actually turn to the English homework I'm supposed to be doing to see if anything catches my fancy there.
Today, good old English came to my rescue. I love words. I like to collect them and pin them up on my office cork board in pretty fonts because to me, words are art. I also like being the smart aleck I was born to be by learning any kind of new and/or hard words that I can actually sneak into daily conversation.
My favorite word is obstreperous. It means being a pain in the a**, basically. I identify with that word. Today though, I was reading an essay about Poe and stumbled across two words that I had heard before, but they somehow struck me in a different way. You know how you can pick a word, say it over and over until suddenly, it doesn't mean anything anymore? Did you ever do that when you were a kid? Well, if you did, then you may have some understanding of why "indefinitiveness" struck me funny today. Not haha funny, funny strange. Both that word and "suggestiveness" were used in the same sentence describing Poe's writing.
Sometimes I love Poe, and sometimes I think he's a weird dude. I love The Raven, but The Tell-Tale Heart is messed up. So for this literary reviewer to say that his writing has "suggestiveness" and "indefinitiveness" in the same sentence gave me the giggles. Why can't we just say it's weird? Why do we go to the big words and use them in such a way that no one knows what we are talking about? I mean, of course, the collective "we."
I like scholarly essays as much as the next girl (which is not that much), and sometimes I get a lot out of them. But for this one, I wanted to yell at her after fourteen pages of using language this way (snooze worthy), and implore her to "just say he's weird and we don't know what he meant half the time!"
Which brings me to my current thought - what if I do this sometimes? What if, because I like words and enjoy showing off that I love them, I write stuff that makes readers want to yell at me? I certainly hope that is not the case. In fact, I would say that my style of prose is rather spare and simple. I like to move the reader with the idea, the thought behind the words, and not necessarily the powerful words themselves.
It is an odd realization about myself, that my current style belies my vocabulary. I think this is a good thing. I can learn to weave a fabric of language that is more precise, more intense. I'm not sure anyone can learn to have the intent of writing. Once I know what it is I want to say, the entire language is at my disposal to convey it. If I have nothing to say in the first place, no thought, or stance, or invocation unique to me, then all the words in the language could not fill that void.
Funny how far you can go from finding a word of the day, to realizing something about yourself you never thought of before. Thought, language. I'm very glad to have both.
I've been having a huge amount of reading fun thanks to a little contest for the best first paragraphs. I've waded through about 700 of the close to 2700 entries (gasp!) and am just tickled at all the different voices and ideas out there. Plus, since I'm NOT going to read my boring English homework, at least I'm learning something and not wasting six hours playing Bejeweled.
Although, I do think hand-eye coordination is to be practiced every once in a while.
I've noticed something. When trying to read that volume of material, I have started skipping if a sentence is awkward in any way, or if a word is used wrong, or the voice does not capture me. Fewer and fewer stick out. Hmmmmmm. Maybe he's SHOWING us something instead of trying to TELL us. Hmmmmmmm.
I will endeavor to read them all. I'm going to print out all 600 pages and really read them. I think there are some fabulous writing minds out there, and I intend to, for free, learn what I can from technique, style, and masterful creation. Plus, it will be interesting to see if I pick what anyone else (Nathan) would. I have to say, I wouldn't pick mine. I think the voice is okay, but it didn't flow nicely. Now that I've read all those others, I see what is lacking in mine. I'm not sure how to fix it, but I have a better idea of what "good" is.
Just now, this minute the contest is closed. 2651 entries. I guessed 3000 so I was a little short, but I have to go now and start reading.
One of the agent blogs I follow is hosting a first paragraph contest. I love contests, so I submitted my best first paragraph (I think) which happens to be from Trauma Queen. TQ is the novelized version of my ambulance days (years, really - all seven of them) with my smart-aleck voice and lots of growing up. Today is the second day of the contest which is open to entries for four full days. There are over 1,000 entries already! OMGosh.
I have no delusions of winning, or even being read very much, but I like to be brave and put myself out there now that I know how to do it. My style does not lend itself to an attention grabbing first sentence or paragraph usually. I'm okay with that. As long as you can set up some kind of interest in the early going, I think you have a shot.
The amazing thing is how many are soooo good! I keep going ohhhhhh, I want to know how that comes out. It lets me know how really keen the competition is for shelf space and that good enough - won't be. My writing will have to be spectacular to be published. Or I could be lucky. I'll take lucky too.
So here's my contribution for your reading pleasure:
It's a strange business. I provide care to the sick, the injured, the dying and the insolent unharmed. The phone rings or the radio calls, and suddenly we dash off to a stubbed toe, or six people dead on the freeway. It's kind of hard to prepare for that; hard to come back to normal from life lived at ninety percent boredom and ten percent sheer terror. My next career will be something that looks pretty and smells good. For now, I’m a trauma queen. It’s like being a drama queen, only messier.
I don't think it's the best thing I've ever written, but the contest rules included no angst, so I took that to heart.
Thank you Nathan B. for hosting a fun contest and taking on all the work to wade through what may end up being 3,000 entries. That's right. I'm predicting a cool 3,000. He's silly. But what a great way to get writers to read each other, support each other, and maybe, just maybe, some very lucky (and good) writer will be discovered. I will be sincerely happy for that author. Even if it's not me.
Well, I'm leaving Margaret and Honey behind for a while. Just there, sitting on the shelf. They haven't misbehaved or anything, but it is time to get ready for NaNoWriMo. It starts November 1st and requires a novel from scratch.
This novel is called Road Clothes. I have the general idea, and the main character name and sketch, but other than that, her story will flow onto the page starting in November. Not a moment sooner. The idea for this particular story has a simple and interesting genesis.
I have always been fascinated by things I see by the road. Perhaps this is because we drove, A LOT, when I was a young Army Brat. Daddy didn't like to fly, so we drove everywhere. Texas to California, to Texas, to Kansas, to Maryland, to California. And of course all the places around there in between the big moves. I think it is why I got interested in medicine and working ambulance. Road kill, skid marks. I got car sick very easily, so there was no reading while Daddy drove, or the big black trash bag would sit with me for the rest of the journey. So, I looked around.
I would see signs, or names, or stuff on the road and make up stories about how they got there or what they meant. Nothing stellar, or even anything I really remember, but I did it to amuse myself. Somehow or other, I never stopped making up the stories. If I'm driving my car and I see skid marks, I try to think of what happened and all sorts of dialog that may have been overheard if I was a little fly in the flying car.
Anyway. One day just recently, my son and I saw a jacket in the roadway. Road clothes. Haven't you ever wondered who they belonged to and why they were in the middle of the freeway, expressway, country lane, or highway? Well, I have. I guess my son has too, because he turned to me and said, "Mom, why do you think that jacket is in the road?"
I whooped loudly and he cringed at my inappropriate response, but I had just gotten a great idea for a story! Son, what if we stopped to pick it up, and there was an arm in it?
A slow but satisfied grin spread across his sweet face. "That would be AWESOME!" Just the reaction I'm looking for about a story.
I went to bed early and everything. Finished watching NCIS, turned the TV off, and walked into my room and fell fast asleep (well, okay, I took a shower and brushed my teeth, even changed into my jammies). Then I woke up at 2 am. WIDE AWAKE.
Now, where I live there are earthquakes a lot, so I looked on the internet - no earthquake. The dog was sleeping in the living room, so it wasn't her. I went back to bed and realized what had awakened me was one of my characters for my NaNo novel talking to me while I was sleeping.
I can see her. Her name is Cassidy Edmond. She was going through this whole song and dance about how I needed to remember this and add that. The rules for NaNoWriMo are to write a novel in 30 days. Actually, the history of the project can be found here:
As far as I can tell, thinking about the story, maybe even a little outlining is within the rules. Not that they have very strict rules about anything. Anyway. I've definitely been thinking about it and I have the story idea and most of the plot lines worked out in my head. The characters are coming to life, evidently to the point where they feel free to bug me. So far there is the main protagonist, Cassidy, and a boyfriend I have yet to name. It is a bit of a crime-mystery so the police will factor in at some point.
I tend to think of names first, giving them just the right tone for what I want the character to express. Then how they dress, mannerisms, life traumas, et cetera. I'm not sure how much I'm going to pre-characterize or if I'll just let them develop as I go. That will depend on how much time I have prior to November and how organized I can get.
I want to be the kind of writer who creates characters that are living, believable beings. I think the fact that they, in their infancy, wake me up at night is a very good sign. Makes me sleepy the next day though.
I'm thrilled to announce that I have won my very first writing contest . . . for poetry.
I wrote my very first poem in March or so, because I read somewhere that the discipline of writing structured poems encourages good word selection and the development of an ear for rhythm in prose. This made complete sense to me, and wanting to write well, I started learning how to write sonnets and other structured forms. I've written about twenty or so poems. Last month, I decided to submit one to a poetry contest on a site called ReviewFuse.
After I submitted said poem, I promptly forgot about it because, well, I don't really write poetry. I guess I do write poetry now though, since a poem I wrote won a contest. This is giggly funny to me. Not because I think it was not good, I'm pretty proud of it. Not because I think the judges were wrong - I have no idea who they were and am honored they thought my poem worthy.
No, none of the usual reasons are why I think this is funny. I think it is funny because it is so typical of me and my life. I am just one of those people who always does things backwards of how I intended, and usually it turns out just fine. What does that say about me? It says I'm pigheaded but grateful, sure of myself but clueless as to what my strengths are (in my writing).
jomicn776 is me, my ID on both FanStory and ReviewFuse.
Here's the link for the poem with great thanks to ReviewFuse:
Update 2015: the site has closed and the link is no longer available. Here is the poem:
Unending thread, between your heart and mine,
awaits the tug of distance to reveal
a purpose borne of using the divine
to loose our forms, yet strengthen soul’s appeal
that we not tarry in the ether mist,
behind a tattered veil for feigned delight.
Sweet nymphs and stirred emotion, lightly kissed,
are not the true love promised by the night.
The thread pulls back, we reel through space and time
believing all we see is here and now.
Illumination bares the truth in rhyme,
existence rests its head on lover’s brow.
Returning from the dream to find you there,
a halo brume encircling your hair.
Again I want to sleep and travel far,
beyond the earthly bound’ries of my form,
and meet you near the heavens’ blazing star;
the kindly light feels safe and free and warm.
We circle round the azure shrouded world,
the thread has bound us surely down the nave.
Remains of day and night before unfurled
and carried on a crimson, golden wave.
Forever we will journey through this life,
no fear of crossing to the farther plane.
Between the two, the best room truly rife
with charity and love in His domain.
No matter if we wake or if we sleep,
Love’s bond a truer marriage couldn’t keep.
I think I'll continue writing poetry. I think this may make me see myself just a bit differently. I've entered exactly fifty seven short story contests and have won none of them. Even when I'm only up against five other stories. Most of those contests are on another site, FanStory, of which I am a proud member.
Both sites are set up for a writer to submit work, have it critiqued, and critique the work of others. I am light-years ahead of where I was when I started my writing journey in December of 2008, mostly thanks to these sites and the people I've connected with through them.
I personally choose to enter contests, not so much to win anything or to stroke my ego (which is a good thing, because with a big 0 for 57, I may have quit writing a long time ago), but I work best under a deadline and I wanted to stretch with unusual topics. I have my stats as a badge of honor on my profile page to keep me humble. For every "Your writing is great!" I hear, I can look at my win - loss record to be pulled violently back to reality.
Which brings me to the ultimate point I am getting to sometime today: What people like, and what is good work, is ultimately a subjective thing. Is my poem really the best of the 325 submitted? For those judges, that day, it was. Don't rest on that. Do better, work harder, keep going. Write, write, write. I am so appreciative of my work being recognized because it is not easy. I've worked hard. But just as I occasionally rationalize a close loss (mine was better), so I should put a win in the same category.
I should, I really should. But just for today, just this one post: Hooray!
I'm going to participate this year, in November, in National Novel Writing Month. It will be a first for me, but not the first novel. I have two current novels in progress. One is at 48,000 words and the other is at 16,000. The rules of the game are that you start from scratch and finish 50,000 in the month of November.
If you do the math, it is a very neat 1666.66 words per day. Take into account the holiday (Thanksgiving - at which I will eat so much that I could not possibly write a word all day), and a day or two for organizing, outlining, regrouping, etc., and you come up with a general 2,000 words per day. Or at least, I do.
For those of you who do not write, 2,000 words a day probably sounds like torture. It's really not that bad. It is admittedly first draft stuff and it is meant to just get the words out, then revise later. For comparison, my previous blog post from yesterday came in at a cool 470 words and I wrote it in 10 or 15 minutes. Granted, a novel will take time not just to physically write the prose, but also time to think about it, flesh out plot points, and develop characters.
I think it is an interesting endeavor. I will at least learn something about my process of writing. Hope some of you might join me.
I went to my very first writing conference on Friday and Saturday at Cuesta College which is near my home. A big plus for being close by, and I went to school there for my nursing degree. I didn't know anyone, but I met lots of nice folks and actually learned something. I tend to be optimistic, so even if something was not stellar, I was easily able to overlook it because most of the offerings were better than I hoped.
I got tons of insight in the dialog workshop by Kirsten Menger-Anderson who wrote a fabulous collection of short stories called Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain. More on that in another post (but I highly recommend it). Dialog kills me sometimes. I think it is critical to do it well, better than well. She had us do a short writing exercise, with dialog of course, and then asked a few to read theirs out loud. I discovered that I was a chicken.
I'm rarely a chicken, so dialog must still be the thing I think I do least well. Funny thing though, I didn't really think anyone who read theirs aloud was significantly better than mine. So, if I'm not intimidated, why the hesitation? Maybe because I'm new in the environment and don't want to come across like a know-it-all (at this point my Dad would spit his teeth across the room, because I never hesitated to be a know-it-all before), or perhaps I am still unsure of my place in this part of the writing world.
The other workshop that I found very valuable was Point of Narration vs Point of View taught by Charlotte Cook. She is a publisher and a writer and is exceedingly comfortable and capable in front of and interacting with an audience. She gave some tangible examples of what to consider when making the choices inherent in writing that transcended her immediate subject matter. Thank you Charlotte.
The other bright spot was hooking up with a few writers who plan on doing NaNoWriMo in November. NaNo stands for National Novel Writing Month (November) and the title plus .org will find you at a website that sponsors the "contest." I say "contest" with the quotes because you are in a contest with yourself to produce 50,000 words of a novel. If you do that, you win. It's going to be nice to have friends in the same wicked boat.
Tomorrow, I'll post my personal NaNo goals and tell you a little about the book I'm planning.
All I know is that I am glad I got my feet wet at a smaller conference. I discovered that I like them and that they are worthwhile. The folks that put it on did a lot of work, and they seemed rather likable. So, I recommend it.